While each classroom is staffed with different teachers, and serves children of differing ages, we see the whole school as one unified program. The teaching approach of every staff member is informed by our school vision. Therefore, as a child moves from the River Room (our toddler program) and through the Prairie and Woodlands Preschool preparatory and preschool program, they should expect to have the same kind of conversations with teachers, the same rich exposure to materials for exploration and expression, the same opportunities for dramatic play and the same attention to their individual and community-based needs. This continuity of experience is something we value greatly.
With that in mind, there are nevertheless differences in the classrooms which are based largely on the ages and stages of development in that classroom. The following offer brief descriptions of the individual classrooms.
The Toddler Program has been organized to provide care for children approximate ages 15 months to 2 years of age. One of our main goals is to help each toddler develop a positive self-image and some degree of independence and self-help skills. The toddler room has been designed to create a secure and warm environment. This emotionally responsive environment encourages each child to move about freely and explore. Most of the materials are arranged on low shelves so that the children can select their own activities.
At this age the children are acquiring language rapidly, and we strive to reinforce this growth. Some of the ways we do this are by encouraging the toddlers to express themselves verbally both to adults and other children, reading books with them, singing and expressing in words the actions and activities that are going on in the room.
The River Room is arranged so that most of the activities are child-choice. There is one short structured group activity or enrichment daily, such as art, cooking, music, movement, etc. We do incorporate the Reggio Philosophy in the classroom, in a way appropriate to the age of the children. We follow their interests, and often projects arise and are focused for some length of time, such as "cows" or "babies".
The toddler program may be the child's first experience in a group situation and we focus on helping the child develop positive peer relationships. We hope that this experience will provide a solid base from which the children can grow in self-confidence and develop a positive approach to learning.
Our Preschool Preparatory and Preschool program is housed in two classrooms - The Prairie Room and the Woodlands Room. Typically, the Prairie Room serves 2 to 3 years of age, and the Woodlands Room serves children ages 3 to 4 years of age. These ages can fluctuate, however, depending on the demographics and readiness of the preschool population in our school community based on the whole child. Both classrooms draw upon similar teaching practices and theories and have the potential to be a two year program for your child.
The Prairie and Woodland program is designed to meet the wide developmental range of intellectual, social/emotional and physical ability which the children in this group present. For this reason, all learning experiences will offer a challenge to each individual child, stretching and challenging them in ways which are appropriate to their level of ability. Further, we endeavor to create learning experiences which are of particular interest to the children, believing that a child's best motivation for learning and experiencing challenges is their own interest. This is known as the Project Approach.
At Elmhurst Academy, we feature a project-based curriculum which emerges from the children's interests based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Teachers and children work together to explore in depth and develop the curriculum. We encourage children to investigate and communicate using all of their natural "languages" or modes of expression, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, collage, dramatic play, and music. We believe that through exploring different ways to communicate, children gain confidence in their own intellectual powers and their desire to learn is strengthened.
The next step for our students is to enter the Kindergarten Bridge – Kindergarten Program. Kindergarten Bridge is an advanced program that runs alongside the private Kindergarten program. It is for those students that are developmentally ready for more enhanced, rigorous academics; along with having a birthday that is close to the kindergarten cut-off date of September 1st. Students are placed in this program by invitation only and must be enrolled for a full-time schedule, five days per week. This classroom follows the same high level curriculum philosophy as the previous classrooms and expands upon concepts explored to continue to build on prior knowledge and understanding.
This is a two year educational plan. To insure the maximum educational benefits, students enrolled in this program must also be attending the Elmhurst Academy Private Kindergarten program for the following school year to ensure continuity in their education.